In part two of his article, Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon puts forward a multi-pronged approach that can be adopted to reach the goal of improved English literacy among Malaysians. Reintroduction of English-medium schools along the lines of private and international schools but affordable to a larger segment of the population is one of the options.
WITH the Education Blueprint currently being finalised, there remains an excellent window of opportunity to re-chart our course for the future. At the primary school level where parental choice is significant, it appears that the dream of a national school where students of different races come together at age seven is more unattainable than it was in 1970.
In 1970, almost a third of the students were enrolled in English-medium schools which were ethnically mixed and growing in significance in terms of share vis a vis other language medium schools before the policy was abruptly changed.
Fast forward to present day and it is patently obvious that after four decades of implementation of the policy, our primary schools have become more ethnically separated – statistics on student enrolment in national schools reveal that 94% of the students are Malay and 96% of Chinese parents now enrol their children in Chinese schools, up from 50% in 1970.
Ironically, it is the Chinese vernacular schools which are now the most ethnically mixed, with a good 9% from the Malay community and 3% from Indians and others.
For a large and growing proportion of Malaysian families, English has and remains the effective language of communication to the extent that it has become a mother tongue. Such families no longer speak their ethnic tongue.
Much has been said about the pursuit of national unity through the study and use of a common language, Bahasa Malaysia (BM).
However, this does not and cannot mean that learning and pursuing knowledge in languages other than BM will erode national integration efforts, patriotism or make us less Malaysian.
Virtually all our past and present prime ministers were educated in English-medium schools. In fact, the current Minister of Education I and II went through English-medium schools and universities. They are certainly not less nationalistic on account of that experience. On the contrary, they are more confident and accomplished on the Malaysian and international stage because of it.
By bringing back the option of English-medium schools, teaching not only science and maths but other subjects like geography and literature in English will allow us to tap into world-class curricula, textbooks and, more importantly in this Internet age, enhance access to virtually unlimited storehouses of up-to-date knowledge which are predominantly in the English language.
Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2013/6/30/nation/13302936&sec=nation